Review by Bobby Blackwolf

Game Review: Resonance

Game Review: Resonance

When I was a kid, I grew up playing PC Adventure Games. I started with the text parser kind, and then moved to the point-and-click kind. While kids today have their fanboy wars over Xbox vs. PS3, I was firmly in the Sierra camp vs. Lucasfilm Games.

Then, I grew up.

Thankfully, so did the point-and-click adventure game.

Resonance is the latest adventure game published by Wadjet Eye Games, and developed by xii games' Vince Twelve. It's been in development for over five years, and indie adventure game fans have been awaiting this release since an early demo was entered into the Independent Games Festival in 2009. The plot revolves around four characters who come together to help stop technology that a (now deceased) particle physicist created from falling into the wrong hands. While that's a seemingly straightforward enough premise, the intertwining lives and memories of the characters make for an engaging story.

How It Looks And Sounds


Low-Res Destruction
Low-Res Destruction
Resonance was created in Adventure Game Studio, which is a free tool that allows people to create their own adventure games in the style of the old Sierra or Lucasfilm games, which means that even ten year old machines will be able to run the game just fine. The maximum resolution is 640x480, and the graphics are absolutely in the style of the old VGA 256-color days. You can set some "smoothing" parameters in the "Game Settings" program (run it as Administrator in Vista or Windows 7) and it helps a little bit when playing in fullscreen on a high resolution monitor. Or, you can put the game in windowed mode - but there is no 2X option, so you'll be playing on a very tiny screen in the middle of your desktop if you normally run at a high resolution.

If you compare the graphics to the games from the early 90's (which is the style that's being emulated) they're done very well. The character sprites have enough detail where you can tell them apart from each other, and the backgrounds are varied enough to give you a sense of a real city with different environments in different areas. The graphics won't blow you away if you're expecting modern day processor taxing polygons, but they'll be great if you put your mind back to the days of the early 90's.

The Kid wishes he had visibility down that alley
The Kid wishes he had visibility down that alley
In the audio department, Resonance features a music soundtrack by Nikolas Sideris that adds the appropriate ambiance to the various settings, but the real star here is the voice acting. All spoken lines of dialogue have complete voiceovers with amazing audio quality. (The inner monologue that the character gives when you look at something or interact with something that doesn't actually do anything is still in text bubble form.) This isn't a voice cast to scoff at, either - for instance, Logan Cunningham plays Detective Bennet, one of the four playable characters. You might not recognize the name, but you'll be hard pressed to go through Bennet's part of the storyline without hoping that he would start talking about "The Kid" going through the halls of Bastion.

How It Plays


Resonance starts off with FMV sequences that depict terrorist attacks around the world, and then rewinds to 60 hours earlier. You are then introduced to the gritty reality in which the story takes place. I won't go into the story at all, but rest assured it treats you like a mature adult. This isn't a game for kids, mostly because they wouldn't understand it - and that's a good thing.

Believe it or not, decades after the genre started, there are still ways to improve on the point-and-click adventure format. At first, Resonance seems deceptively simple - left click to interact with something, right click to look at it. The game even helps you by showing you interactable objects when you hover your mouse over them, so there's no chance of you not being able to see something that you're supposed to pick up.

Where the innovation happens, however, is in the Inventory system.  You have your classic Inventory of what's in your pocket, but you also have "Long Term Memories" and "Short Term Memories" which also act as Inventory objects and conversation topics. When you are in a conversation with a character, you can either select the dialog tree options, or you can click on ANY Inventory item to ask about that particular item.

Long Term Memories are pieces of story that chronicle a major event in that character's life, and these stay with you throughout the game. When you interact with these directly, you are shown a cutscene with the relevant dialog, which is helpful later in the game when you're trying to remember that conversation you had at the very beginning.

Short Term Memories are created by you by dragging something on the screen into the Short Term Memory bar. A very simple example of this mechanic is in an early part of the game where you need to get into a locked door. You're pretty sure that the guy you met outside has the keys for the locked door, but you just need to ask for them. So, you'd drag the door into your Short Term Memory, and then go outside to start a conversation with the guy, and select that door from your Inventory. He will then tell you that he does indeed have the keys, and hands them over to you. This is a great mechanic that also helps obscure solutions a little bit more, as there won't be new dialog tree options that magically open up when you advance to a certain point. The downside is if you forgot to place something in your Short Term Memory, you have to do the long walk of shame back to where it is when you realize you need it.

This isn't good...
This isn't good...
The hallmark of any adventure game is the puzzles, and Resonance is no different. The puzzles range from extremely simple to maddeningly difficult, although the truly difficult ones are typically optional - unless you're like me and completely forget that you can just walk in the front door instead of trying to play with wires in a panel. If you're looking for a hint system found in more modern adventure games like those from Telltale, you're out of luck. Conversation between the playable characters can lead some clues, but nothing if you ever truly get stuck.

There are a few quick-time puzzles that can lead to death if not solved before the timer runs out, but death is not the end. When you "die", the game will rewind back to the beginning of the sequence so you can try a different approach. This helps alleviate the "Save Early, Save Often" mantra of the old style adventure games, but I still found myself adhering to old habits.

Four Characters!
Four Characters!
You control four playable characters throughout the story. Once you have them all together, you'll be required to switch between them at any time, sometimes even during conversations. You'll be presented with objectives that require each character to use his or her skills and Memories to achieve the goal, but there isn't anything really pushing you toward how to get there. I stumbled upon some solutions quite by accident out of frustration, and even though the objectives are presented in such a way that you can solve them in any order, there really is a linear path that you must follow for the first main four-person task.

One nice thing, though, is that there is an option in the dialog between playable characters of "Follow me," alleviating the concern of having to manually walk multiple characters to a new location.

Depending on your ability to solve the puzzles, your first playthrough of the game can be anywhere between five to ten hours, which isn't bad considering this is a $10 title.

The Verdict


Resonance does things that hardcore fans of the genre will love, but new people will hate. It doesn't hold your hand, which makes it all the more rewarding once you do figure out the solution to whatever the game is throwing at you - but that can also frustrate those who are not used to the thinking process required, or are looking for more of the modern day adventure games. Those nostalgic for the early 90's art style will appreciate the amount of detail that went into the pixel art - but those who seek HD graphics in all of their games will be put off by the low-res style. This isn't an introduction to the genre by any means - but it is well worth checking out for those who are looking for a more gritty and hardcore adventure game, or are hoping to rekindle the magic of playing their favorite games of the early 90's

It's taken five years for Resonance to see a commercial release, and the time, effort, polish, and loving care definitely shows.

Price: $9.99 at GOG.com, coming soon to Steam
Acquisition Method: Promo code provided by publisher

Our Grade:
A
The Good:
  • Innovative Inventory system introduces new ways to solve puzzles and initiate conversations
  • Voice acting is extremely well done and helps get you attached to the characters
  • Story is gripping and makes you want to know what's going to happen next
The Bad:
  • 640x480 maximum resolution might turn off some gamers
  • Some overall objectives more linear than they appear
  • No in-game hint system to push you along in case you get utterly stuck

Bobby Blackwolf is the host of The Bobby Blackwolf Show on the VOG Network, lead developer of the website, and lead GM for VOG: The Game. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyBlackwolf

Review by - 6/18/2012 10:59 PM1442 views

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Comments

Sstevens
Sstevens
6/25/2012 7:34 AM

1 0

Reply
Hey, thanks for the positive review! I did all the character art and animations so I'm pleased that so many people are enjoying the game.
CloverNikon
CloverNikon
6/19/2012 12:06 AM

0 0

Reply
I love the whole look of the game. Must try it. :)
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